2018 Government Affairs Chamber Survey: Businesses like What They See, Addressing Talent Critical to Growth


Results from the annual Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs survey confirms talent and workforce development, coupled with parking and mobility, remain the top concerns of West Michigan business.

More than 600 members contributed to this year’s survey, with two-thirds of respondents representing small and mid-sized business.

The Chamber uses the survey to identify top issues concerning West Michigan businesses — small to large – and helps define our advocacy efforts to create a progressively better business climate for the community.

For a second year in a row, the “availability of skilled labor” and “general talent retention” are the top priorities for Chamber members. Following these concerns, parking availability replaced federal government regulations in the top three, with 28 percent of respondents noting concern. Of the top five issues identified, parking availability is the only item unrelated to talent and workforce.

Despite concerns expressed in the survey, 96 percent of Chamber members reported a favorable or very favorable perception of West Michigan’s business climate. This marks a three percent increase from 2017, with less than two percent of respondents holding unfavorable or very unfavorable perceptions.

West Michigan is a growing business hub and the Chamber will continue our momentum with policies that reflect our members’ needs and create a thriving business climate. The message is clear and we will continue to drive forward an agenda that addressees our talent.”

Click here for complete survey results.

Talent and Workforce

More than 85 percent of respondents hired and/or added new positions within the past 12 months as a result of business growth — an increase of eight percent from 2017.

Nearly 80 percent of the same audience, however, stated difficulty in finding qualified applicants to fill these roles. This number has steadily and significantly increased from 51 percent in 2014 to 72 percent in 2017. When asked how businesses overcame hiring challenges, nearly half increased wages to attract qualified workers, almost double the amount from the 2016 survey.

Parking and Mobility

As a barrier to business growth, parking availability has increased from a top-five to a top-three priority with nearly a third of respondents highlighting as a top concern (28 percent total). In examining mobility closer, both availability of parking and employee commutes were highlighted as primary concerns by roughly half of the respondents. Transit connections followed in third with 17 percent.

The Chamber will work to build upon the positive steps taken in 2017 and the increased engagement of downtown stakeholders. In 2018, we are prepared to engage the business community in the evaluation of the recent parking census, and will work with the City to advocate for a variety of options employers can leverage to alleviate parking and mobility obstacles.

When asked to rank potential investments from the City of Grand Rapids that would best benefit their business, nearly 70 percent of survey participants placed parking first. Other beneficial investments included Enhanced DASH service (fare-less, high-frequency circulator), remote parking with transit access, Bus Rapid Transit, car share and bike share, respectively.

When sorted by companies and organizations primarily doing business within the City of Grand Rapids, the results remained largely the same with slightly more (73 percent) recognizing parking availability as the number one investment to benefit their business.

Ballot Questions

This year’s survey covered possible proposals making an appearance on the 2018 statewide ballot including paid sick leave, the legalization of marijuana, a minimum wage increase and redistricting.

The plurality of members surveyed feel the proposals would negatively impact their business — redistricting being the only exception — and would oppose the proposals.

Respondents felt most strongly about the proposal regarding possible paid sick leave, which would require all Michigan businesses with more than 10 employees to provide workers with 72 hours paid sick leave. Forty-one percent believe this proposal would lead to adverse outcomes for their business, with almost 45 percent of those surveyed opposing the proposal.

Questions? Contact Joshua Lunger at 616.771.0336

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